THE LIFE OF RYAN
IN THE LATEST IN A SERIES OF ARTICLES CELEBRATING NEW ROSS TALENT, FOOTBALLER RYAN DELANEY, WHO PLAYS WITH LEAGUE ONE SIDE ROCHDALE IN THE UK, AND WITH THE U-21 IRISH TEAM, TALKS TO DAVID LOOBY ABOUT HIS CAREER TO DATE
RYA N D e l a n e y, 21, from Ard na Greine in New Ross, has been one of Ireland’s hottest young prospects playing in the UK in recent years.
He has been nominated for a Rising Star Footballer of the Year North West award for his rock solid performances for Rochdale FC, including against Harry Kane’s Tottenham in the FA Cup last year at Wembley. His career began with Ross Celtic and over the years he has consistently impressed at every club he has lined out for. The former CBS student first shot to prominence on the Wexford Youths side which captured the SSE Airtricity First Division title in 2015. He went on to play in the first half of their sole campaign in the top flight before moving to Burton Albion in July, 2016.
The Rossonian played a key part in one of the biggest games in the Rochdale minnows’ 111year history, and the Wembley replay brought the club immense financial rewards.
The level headed Barrowsider joined the Lancashire club in the January 2018 transfer window, having returned to Championship strugglers Burton Albion after a very productive loan spell with Cork City when he won a league and cup double, earned a national player of the month award, and gained representative honours with the Republic of Ireland Under-21 squad.
Delaney wisely opted to drop down a division with the aim of securing first team football.
He signed a two and a half year deal with Keith Hill’s Rochdale, and so far it looks like the best move he has ever made. How did you get involved in playing football?
I started playing when I was in school. I went to New Ross CBS and to the CBS Secondary School. When I was around seven or eight I went to play for Ross Celtic. My friends were playing with the club and our group went on to be quite successful from u12 to u16s. We had Robbie Power and Brian Mullett over us and they were fantastic all the way along. I played in midfield. When did you decide you wanted to play football as a career?
I remember I was quite young. It was my first trip to watch my favourite team Man United, who were playing Reading. I was watching Kevin Doyle, who went to school in New Ross, and I could see there was a pathway from coming through from a place like New Ross. There are a lot of successful people from the town, and in and around the town, and that gave me the inspiration that I could succeed as long as I worked hard. When I was 13 I started playing with the county team along with quite a few lads from my class. It was around this time when I realised I had to make a decision about what I wanted to focus on and work towards and I decided I wanted to be a footballer. Once I decided I knew I was going to put all my effort into playing soccer. How did you progress withWexford Youths?
From the age of 15 I played with Wexford Youths. It was there where I had a little sneak at what a professional set up was like under Mick Wallace. He was over the team and it gave me a feel of that environment. We trained in Ferrycarrig and you could see the set up. It was an eye opener for me. I wanted to go and challenge myself with the team. It wasn’t until the year I went down to Wexford when Mick said there was an opportunity if I wanted to play in central defence from 17 onwards.
Was it a big change moving from midfield into a central defensive role?
You see all the lads scoring
“Seeing Harry Kane and Deli Alli warming up on the side of the pitch was a bit surreal”
goals every week and it can get a little bit frustrating, but the older I get the more I realise that it’s all about the team winning. It’s a good time to be a defender considering the sums being paid. Do you agree?
Over the last couple of years the market rose for defenders with huge sums paid for players like Virgil Van Dyke.
Which players did you love watching when you were growing up?
Growing up my favourite players were Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic. When I got a bit older it was Richard Dunne. Over the last five years of his Ireland career he was in his prime and it was great to see how much it meant to him playing for his country and how much he was willing to do for the team by always putting it first. The level of commitment required to be a professional must take its toll?
There is a lot of commitment but at the end of the day you do get an opportunity to go out and let off some steam. When I went to Wexford first there was training, a maximum of two nights a week and a game at weekends. It was ramped up to three nights a week with the senior team and a game at the weekend and we would go in for a day recovery on Saturday. It meant an extra two nights but you felt stronger and fitter and there was a stepping stone of going on. Mick Wallace, Seamie O’Shea and Shane Keegan gave me the opportunity. Mick was fantastic with me from a young age when I went down there. It means a hell of a lot to grow up in a club and I put my mind fully to become a professional footballer to do the best can do and wanted to make sure.
Was it difficult to be disciplined and avoid temptations like alcohol in your late teens?
When I was 17 or 18 when all of my friends were going out and enjoying themselves most weekends – I just felt if I joined them it could damage my chances across the water. There were opportunities for me to go out with my friends but it was more about managing that more sparingly more than anything else. How has playing for Rochdale been?
The last 18 months have been fantastic. The staff in Cork and John Caulfied and now I have come over here. The manager has given me a lot of chances and I want to repay him and repay myself for all the hard work I’ve put in. Do you get any stick from English players coming from Ireland? Times have changed a lot for Irish players. It doesn’t make a difference where you come from as you have players from all different nationalities and you just get on with it and with the work. It is a friendly dressing room where everyone enjoys everybody else’s company and there is good craic. We feel comfortable around each other. The manager has given me a lot of game time and he is obviously putting a lot of faith in me. I just want to repay him and to repay the team for taking a chance on me. Has being a well-known footballer changed the way people see you?
Times have changed. If you want a crazy lifestyle you’ll have one or you can have a relaxed lifestyle I keep it low key. If the occasion arises you can enjoy yourself. Is there a good living to be made?
I was getting paid from Burton Albion and by the club when I was on loan in Cork. You get better wages (over here) but it depends on the club. What have been the highlights of your career so far?
Last year playing the FA Cup against Spurs was a big moment for me. We played them both at our ground and at Wembley. Going out before the game and seeing Harry Kane and Dele Alli warming up on the side of the pitch was a bit surreal. Is it any different playing against players like Harry Kane?
You have to focus the same way you go into every League game. The pitch was slow at the time and it added to the experience. It was definitely a milestone moment for me. What are your ambitions for this year?
I want to take everything step by step and hopefully continue playing well this year and set a good standard for myself playing week in, week out in a successful team. Do you miss your hometown?
I miss the general craic over there and time with family and friends. It’s the small things, like family birthdays and catching up with my mates. When I do get home you have to make the most of it. I think everyone in New Ross is generally very friendly. They treat me the same as when I was growing up. It’s just the vibe about New Ross that is nice. Do people treat you any differently now?
I do get asked for selfies. I was a bit surprised at the start by that sort of stuff but you get used to it. I stay true to myself – the way my family raised me.
Ryan with his cousins Conal (front), Cormac (left) and Olan.
A young Ryan meeting one of his heroes, Kevin Doyle.
Ryan tackles Tottenham Hotspur star Lucas Moura while playing for Rochdale. Ryan with proud grandparents, Willie and Margaret.
Ryan with Wexford Youths’ Gary Delaney in January 2012.